Ace Spectrum is about you — the ACE Learning Centers.
It’s a quick sharing of ideas, inspiration, opinions and best practices among our continuing education organizations.
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By Marisol Medina-Cadena, Audio Academy Fellow, and Ben Trefny, News Director, KALW Public Radio
This week, it’s my pleasure to introduce you to Audio Academy fellow Marisol Medina-Cadena. She came to our program after graduating summa cum laude from UC Santa Cruz in 2016 with a degree in film and digital media production. Marisol is a storyteller with a passion for local histories, social issues, arts and culture, and before joining our team, she was working on a documentary film about gentrification in cities across California.
Here are some of Marisol’s thoughts, in her own words:
From the very start of KALW’s Audio Academy, I knew I made the right choice. I took a leap of faith to momentarily leave my position at a public TV station to invest in my skills and pursue something I always was curious about, but never had the opportunity to explore: the oh-so-delightful world of radio. While I can turn to my arsenal of documentary skills I am also challenged to go beyond them to acquire new approaches to storytelling.
When I started this program, I naively thought radio journalism would be more straightforward than video journalism; thinking we just strip a story down to its core by eliminating distracting visuals. But now I realize, radio is so visual! A good radio story paints a picture. In other words, we aren’t just reporting, we are immersing listeners in a place and time, or maybe we are explaining big pictures ideas that tend to get lost in the thick of abstracted wordiness. Accordingly, we, Audio Academy fellows, are always reminded by our KALW mentors to think about why our story should be a radiostory, what distinguishes the way we will tell it sonically unlike other mediums.
These fundamental lessons became apparent at the very start of the program. My first week at the studio I shadowed my mentor, Eli Wirtschafter, KALW’s transportation reporter. When we first met, he was preparing his piece on MUNI buses being converted to ambulances. I assumed I’d just be a fly on the wall while he worked away. Instead, he solicited my feedback. Yes my feedback, a radio novice — my initiation into to the supportive and inclusive Audio Academy. After that, I observed Eli and his editor go back and forth about which sound bites were more punchy. I felt like I was watching a ping pong match, trying to keep up with each of them. I couldn’t believe I was witnessing radio-magic right before my very eyes. After that Eli let me sit in his tracking session. For non-radio people, tracking means recording in the studio. (I am still getting the hang of flexing this radio lingo and am loving it).
In the recording booths, KALW editor Lisa Morehouse prompted Eli to sound more like himself. I remember her saying something to the likes of “that take was good but do it again for me so I can hear Eli, not the reporters of Planet Money.” Her comment was eye-opening. “Wow, radio is the special world where you can be authentic to your voice,” I thought to myself. Before this, I just assumed that all the people on podcasts I admired were in on this secret formula to speaking, but really it’s just that they know how to write and report as themselves, which in turn is engaging for the rest of us. How cool is that?!
In the weeks that have followed, I continue to be starstruck in the presence of sincere, creative, and fair KALW reporters. I appreciate how much KALW staff believe in our abilities to create, encouraging us to seek out our “dream” interviews, even if we do err along the way. For instance, I did my first tape-sync last week. I was anxious about it, but the fact that my mentor never once doubted my ability assured me that I could do it. And I did! Now that I got over that first hurdle I look forward to the next month getting out in the field and continuing learning on the job. I couldn’t have asked to be placed in a better team than this. Cheers to more Crosscurrents stories with context, culture, and connection. I’m all about it!
By Bo Walsh, KALW Audio Academy Fellow, and Ben Trefny, News Director, KALW Public Radio
This week, it’s my pleasure to share with you the perspectives of Bo Walsh. He grew up on the southeast side of San Francisco, where he still lives, very close to the KALW studios. A lifelong educator, and learner, he’s got a deep curiosity and significant interest in every aspect of radio production. Here are some of his thoughts, now that he’s part of our team:
It’s been almost three months since the Audio Academy began in late August, and thus far the experience has been way more than I could have ever imagined. I say that because from the point of applying for the Academy in March up until the first day of orientation this fall, it was hard not to imagine and dream about what it would be like or what to expect. I pictured that final scene from “E.T.” where he finally boards the spaceship as I licked my chops for the chance to learn from and just be around other audio extraterrestrials who shared the same desire for local storytelling that was increasingly burning inside of me. The first few days I was downright star-struck as I was seeing all these journalists and creatives up-close and in person whose work I had listened to and admired. I felt like an autograph seeking little kid at a Giants game, or a fanboy who wanted to shower these idol-turned colleagues with praise and admiration, but I had to play it cool.
The whole experience has been nothing short of Jedi training. I had a little audio experience coming in, but this Padawan quickly realized that he knew absolutely nothing, and I’ve learned that’s ok—I’m not supposed to. All those months of breaking down “Snap Judgment” episodes in my ears and mind couldn’t prepare me for words like evergreen, peg, and lede. I sat one day in the “Whisper Room” and watched James Rowlands slice through sound waves on Pro Tools like a master swordsman and felt the foundation of my perceived audio knowledge crumble beneath me. Potential stories and ideas that I previously thought were genius now began to be dissected and eventually tossed in the trash. My newly trained way of thinking was leading me to search for potential scenes and ambience that would make for more than just a conversation with an interesting subject.
My mentor Ninna Gaensler-Debs has been a great teacher. She’s a straight-shooter and when I thought my neighborhood vox montage was ready to be nominated for a Third Coast International Audio Award, she politely explained where the minutiae time gaps between the voices threw it all off. She does a good job of not letting me get too excited when I think I’ve struck gold, but she’s also equally encouraging like when I questioned if I even belonged in the newsroom. Watching her cover the North Bay Fires was a front row demonstration in journalism for me, and I was very proud to call her my mentor.
The highlight so far for me was getting to interview longtime KGO Sports broadcaster Joe Starkey. He used to call games for the 49ers and has been the voice of Cal Football since 1975. I wanted to reach out to him for an Audiograph, but couldn’t find his contact information anywhere. I creepily found a 2006 PDF file on page 7 of a Google search which had his personal e-mail address in a real tiny manuscript. I reached out and within hours he told me to message him again in a few weeks and said he would help me out. We ended up meeting on the Berkeley campus and he couldn’t have been nicer. When I turned my recorder off, I felt the need to ask him about how he got into radio. For 20 minutes, he told the story of how it was a “last shot” career change for him, and he explained the path radio has taken him on. Everything he said was exactly what I needed to hear and I walked away that day encouraged. Sheila E calling me on my phone from a blocked number to ask for directions to the station was pretty neat too.
This program has really given me a newfound sense of purpose, which I really needed. It’s early, and I haven’t even put out a story yet, but nothing has made me feel like I’m doing what I’m supposed to in life like that feeling of connecting with an interviewee or walking around with my headphones on with recorder and mic in hand. Just being in the creative hub that is the newsroom for one day is a shot in the arm that carries over from week to week. Maybe I’m playing pretend for a year. Maybe this is actually for me. Only time will really tell. I’m still not quite sure how I snuck on this spaceship, but I’m enjoying every second of the ride.
By Kyle Halle-Erby, Span Program Coordinator, San Francisco International High School; and Jose L., Freshman at City College of San Francisco
Throughout this year, we are sitting down with current students in our Span program to hear their perspectives on our program. Span is the college retention program in our ACE Learning Center. Span supports recent graduates from SF International High School who are attending college. The goal is to provide a warm hand-off to their new campuses and help students develop support networks that will support their success after high school.
Jose L., a first year student at City College of San Francisco, kicks off our series with his reflection on beginning college.
Why are you in college?
I’m in college because I want to achieve my goals. One of them is finishing college and getting my college diploma as a computer engineer.
What supports are you using to be successful in college so far?
In the college I’m going to there are a lot of good people that will help you out if you need any kind of help. Like, for example Latino Services Network. I always go to this place because there I can go to do my homework or if I need to print something you can do it there also they let you use computers for free. And, if you are struggling with some classes you can have tutoring classes. Also another program that help me a lot is Voices of Immigrants Demonstrating Achievement (VIDA) . There is a lot of help in college, but the thing is that help will not come to you. You have to find it. It is not like in high school that the teachers are reminding you to do your homework.
What advice do you have for other new college students? What advice do you have for high school students?
One advice I have for the new future college students is that in college you have to be very very responsible in your homework – there is no late homework unless the teacher is nice and you ask him for an extension. But most of the teachers do not accept late homework so be responsible and practice a lot your English. One challenge I have right now is my mom is the only one who works. My little sisters are going to be in college soon and I want to earn money to help my family. I think it will be hard to stay focused on school and to help my family.